EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities – Helping to Create Places that People Love to Live, Work and Play

By Elizabeth Skane

As a child, I scrambled across forested stream banks on my way to and from my elementary school. The star attraction was but a teensy rivulet that my 7-year-old self could hop over in a single bound, but to me it was a gift, a special place where I could waste hours examining river rocks, searching for turtles, snakes, and insects, and hiding in dead tree trunks. It was on these formative daily trips that I first developed a love for the outdoors. The excitement I always felt when I stepped off the paved path and into that realm of discovery translated into a more formal study of the natural environment in my undergraduate and graduate pursuits.

So you can imagine how lucky I feel, finally a grown-up (at least chronologically), to be working at a place whose mission is to protect the American peoples’ health and environment – in the Office of Water to boot (great name, right?)! Since my arrival at EPA two years ago I’ve helped coordinate and review new rules and regulations coming out of the Office of Water. It’s proven to be an amazing opportunity: I’ve participated in high-level policy meetings and learned the nuts and bolts of how, once Congress passes a law, it gets delegated to our Agency and made into regulations. Amazing stuff for a lifelong environmental science and policy nerd!

For the last six months I’ve been on detail to the Office of Sustainable Communities, home to the EPA’s delegation to the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. OSC projects frequently require collaboration with experts from other program offices within EPA, including Air, Water, and Waste. I believe this is one of its greatest strengths – OSC is by nature a multi-disciplinary office that seeks to assist communities with transit and walkability, green infrastructure and storm water, redevelopment and brownfields, and many other areas… all without a rule or regulation in sight! OSC’s work complements and enhances that of the more regulation-focused programs. It allows staff to be innovative, flexible, creative, and nimble in response to needs at the community, state, and federal level. I take back with me to the Office of Water new knowledge of EPA’s scope and reach, as well as a profound respect for my colleagues who work to further the livability and sustainability of our nation’s communities.

About the author: Elizabeth Skane is a Baltimore native who likes to ride her bike, swim, and run all over the Mid-Atlantic. Her favorite place on earth is the marshy coastal plain of the Delmarva Peninsula.

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